Monday, 14 October 2013

Tutored To Death

The latest fashion in London is to hire a tutor for your kids. I hadn't realised how widespread this trend is until I volunteered to help my daughter and a group of friends to do a school project. It was impossible to meet up because one of the girls had a tutor for each subject. When we finally managed to go to her place, we had to wait for tutor number 1 to finish. We then worked on the project, and the next tutor was already there, waiting in the living room, when we left. The girl in question was seven. Yes, seven!

I am not going to patronise anyone and say that you shouldn't tutor your kids, because, after all, it is a personal choice. Often, teachers say that you shouldn't do it when in fact they have a business on the side tutoring children. They are doing some parents a favour, they say. Talk about British double standards.


This episode sent me back twenty years ago when I was a student. I was tutoring children to make ends meet. I was getting paid for the few children I was teaching, and I was also doing it for a charity, in a deprived area, as a volunteer. In both cases, it was a nightmare. The rich kids were expecting me to do their homework, the poor ones couldn't wait for the lessons to be over.

I stopped everything after a couple of years to start a job. It was a huge relief. Basically, I couldn't help the children because they were not eager to learn. That's not something that you can teach, right? How do you become curious and eager to learn? I have no idea. But if it is not there, well, it is not there. Believe me, I tried everything. I explained that you can't buy something if you can't count. I tried jokes, games and the likes. It didn't work. And I was exhausted.

Things haven't changed in twenty years. Why do some parents tutor their kids to death? I know that it is a competitive world out there, but come on, kids need to have a life.

Having said this, I don't pay a tutor but I do take care of my daughters. I try to cook with them and explain what quantities are. We read together and I try to teach them some French (with limited success only). In my household, there is no TV during the week. And mum is doing the tutoring. How about you, how do you manage?

25 comments:

  1. It frightens me how much children are pressed to learn. I remember my best teachers being the ones who made lessons interesting so you didn't realise you were learning.


    I like academic subjects, but I have to come to realise that learning to learn is so important. Being pressed to learn, even at my age, rarely works.


    While help with reading, writing and maths seems a good idea if a child is falling behind, attitude to learning is important too.


    Perhaps if a child has a poor teacher - and I can remember a series of changing maths teachers who were unable to communicate effectively - a tutor could be a help, but not in every subject.

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  2. Katherine Hetzel14 October 2013 02:34

    I get really stressed when I hear of tutors for kids this young. There is a world of difference between supporting your children's learning and trying to be the top dog in every subject. I would much rather sacrifice top grades in academic subjects (fortunately both my kids are bright and eager learners in most subjects at 12 and 14, so we hope they'll do reasonably well) and have well-rounded, balanced and confident young people, than see my children suffer nervous breakdowns and other stress related issues because of the pressure to achieve.


    Learning is important - but it's not always in academia we learn the most important lessons for life.

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  3. Francene Stanley14 October 2013 02:40

    I like your attitude with your children. By including them in everything you do, they are learning by example. This is exactly what I did with my children back in the 60s. My God. Wha sort of world will we live in when these bored, spoiled children mature?

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  4. We taught out daughter to cook and she had the thirst to learn

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  5. amyyoungmiller14 October 2013 05:39

    We home school, so my kids have a 24/7 tutor available (me), but they also have to learn how to do things on their own. My college-age kiddos share with me that that skill is the most important thing they learned in our homeschool: how to teach themselves. Because if you learn how to teach yourself, you don't have to rely on any tutor to prepare yourself for college.

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  6. I had a tutor for about a two weeks once. I was placed in a class for which I had no prereqs and, given the capabilities of my classmates, I wanted a crash course - which my tutor provided. i got the drift and took it from there.
    I also agree with Amy (below) in that our kids need to learn how to get things done.
    Because they will need to be the masters of their own fate.

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  7. Carolina HeartStrings14 October 2013 09:07

    Wow. Lots of things come to mind. If the child is struggling in every subject is she in the right academic setting? Is it a prestige thing? Does the child possible like the attention she isn't getting elsewhere? Sad.

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  8. Sam at Tutorfair14 October 2013 09:10

    Really interesting post. There's definitely such a thing as too much tutoring, although we've also found it's really hard for parents to find good help for their children if they want it.


    We spoke with lots of parents who said they felt guilty, or were being secretive, about hiring a tutor, and when we speak to schools they seem even more confused.


    And so our answer has been to have a 'child for a child' model when booking a tutor. The results have been absolutely fantastic in the inner city London schools we work with.

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  9. Thank you for giving us a tutor's perspective. Don't get me wrong, tutoring can work, but the approach needs to be tailored for each kids. And some kids just need to get a life!

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  10. In this instance, it is a prestige thing. It is the sign of a good social status. Silly, sad, and true...

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  11. There is nothing wrong with having a tutor if you know where you want to go. In your case, it was some punctual help and you needed it. In London, it is a business and it is a prestige thing.

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  12. Well, in London you have lots of exams to get accepted in the 'better' schools at 7 and 11, hence the tutors at 7 (you can hire a tutor at 3 too if you want to go to a top nursery). I admire the fact that you home-schooled your kids! I am not sure that I would be patient enough. Ad you are right. This little girl needs a childhood!

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  13. Good for her! I think that kids need to enjoy learning. That's the main thing, right?

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  14. It is a scary thought, isn't it? Spoiled children will probably become spoiled adults...Not very nice...
    I also think that children need to get bored from time to time (not always, obviously). After all, they need to learn what to do with themselves ti become independent.

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  15. You are right, academic success is just one part of a very complicated equation (no pun intended!). I want my daughters ti be happy and to be passionate about something. I think hat 's how they will learn?

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  16. I totally agree. A tutor has to help if, for some reason, there is some catching up to do. Well, that's not what I see around me. Not at all.

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  17. I have mixed feelings about tutors. Our public educational system certainly has shortcomings when it comes to meeting the needs of all children, so I would think tutoring might be necessary in some cases, but I think 7 is so very young! And if she is being tutored in every subject, then it sounds like either she may have a learning disability, or her parents have some sick need for her to be top of her class.

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  18. My youngest was homeschooled for 2 years and she learned how to learn on her own and was actually tutoring the boys in her college classes.

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  19. OK. I am going to make all of you mad. I have seen how kids in the North Eastern parts of the US are pressed from pre-kinder on to excel. I have seen what happens to kids who don't do well enough to get into top schools there. If the kids don't get into top schools, they can't get top jobs. If they don't get top jobs, they will have to move to a state where they can be competitive. Do you want to live in a state with kids who got Cs in engineering school building your bridges?


    This scares me to death. There isn't as much pressure in the parts of Texas that I have lived in, but in the big cities kids need to know what college they want to attend while they are in middle school.


    The parents put on the push because they know how hard it is for them to survive the competition. They want to make sure that their kids do well. Maybe there is personal pride in the saying "My son, the doctor" , but more than that is the hope that we are gone, our kids will be OK.


    One last thing, about that little one with tutors for every subject, whether she going to school or not, she is being homeschooled and it is better for her. These tutors have to find ways into that particular little girl's head. Something a teacher with a roomful of active children cannot do for each child.

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  20. I think that it is the latter. And I also think that, in this case, it is simply too much for her.

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  21. I am all about striving for excellence, and I understand why her parents are paying her so many tutors -it is a tough world out there! That said, I just can't help thinking that this is not the right way to learn. She might suffer from a burn-out at some point. We will see what happens.

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  22. Sorry I did everything wrong. My kids OD'ed on TV and when they got their computers spent hours on them. 2 of the 3 have graduated from university. However, when we did anything, we did it as a family. I'd scrap the tutor.

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  23. It is a difficult decision, but I also think that in this instance they should scrap the tutors. Let's see what happens...

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  24. Manish kumar verma28 November 2013 23:36

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